COLUMN: Reflecting on a year in Toyokoro

I can’t believe that it has already been 12 months since I moved across the world to a very small town in northern Japan to teach English.

My year in Toyokoro has finally come to an end. I can’t believe that it has already been 12 months since I moved across the world to a very small town in northern Japan to teach English. I have had so many great experiences during this past year and have made memories that will last a lifetime.

Thank you to the Sister City Committee of Summerland for choosing me to serve as the Assistant English Teacher for the Toyokoro school district for this past year.

Having majored in physiology and only having assistant teaching experience at the university level, I didn’t know if I would be able to succeed at teaching English to children. While it was tough at times trying to help students learn new words, grammar, and pronunciation, I always accepted the challenge and enjoyed watching the students have fun and enhance their English ability.

Some of my favourite memories from Toyokoro are from my English classes at the nursery school and the elementary school. The children were always so excited to see me, and every class I would be greeted with screaming and cheering ‘Hello’s’ and ‘How are you’s?’ from all the students.

The students always had so much energy and were so excited to learn and play fun games in English.

I think the students’ favourite thing to do in class was sing songs in English. I don’t think I have sung ‘Head and shoulders’ and ‘The Hokey Pokey’ so many times in my life!

During my final month in Toyokoro I had many farewell parties and ceremonies. All of my classes gave me gifts on my final day of school. Most of the gifts were pictures and messages from all of the students. I will miss them all so very much!

This past year would not have been so special if it weren’t for all of the amazing people who live in Toyokoro. Everyone was always so kind, welcoming, and supportive of me. I will miss them, but I know that I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. I can’t wait to return to Toyokoro one day and visit with all of my past colleagues, friends, and students.

This past year was unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my life. I not only had the opportunity to live in a foreign country and learn their culture and language, but I also had the opportunity to travel to other countries in Asia. I was fortunate enough to get to travel to South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. These experiences have changed my life forever.

While this chapter of my life is closing another one is opening. In September, I will be starting my Master of Science in Reproductive Biology at the University of Guelph, where my research will focus on ovarian cancer.

Toyokoro will always have a special place in my heart and I know that I will return again many times to visit. I hope that the Sister City relationship between Summerland and Toyokoro continues to stay strong for many years to come. Thank you Summerland and Toyokoro for giving me this amazing opportunity!

Allyssa Hooper is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.